Which Metal Singers Have the Best Vocal Technique?

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Heavy metal is the bastard son of the music industry. Let’s be serious. Metal is obnoxiously theatrical, self-indulgent, aggressively provocative, overtly masculine, and doesn’t age well. Or, to put that same sentiment politely, metal is a slowly acquired taste. But that doesn’t mean the infamous genre is without merit.

Despite its crusty appearance, heavy metal’s musicianship can only be described as athletic. From blast-beats to poly-rhythms, the instrumentation is objectively impressive. And according to New York-based voice instructor Claudia Friedlander, the same is true for metal vocals. On her blog The Liberated Voice–on which she explores new ideas about vocal technique–Friedlander candidly critiques metal vocalists with occupational precision and enthusiasm. For example, she holds Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson in high-esteem:

I have nothing but admiration for this singer. Listen how he starts off with a soft growl, then moves seamlessly into a well-supported, sustained high full-voice sound that then evolves into an effortless long scream! His diction is easily intelligible, regardless of the range he’s singing in or the effect he’s going for. He achieves an intensely rhythmic delivery of the lyrics without losing legato and musical momentum, something a lot of classical singers struggle with, especially when interpreting the many staccato and accent markings that crowd scores by Bellini, Donizetti, etc.

Compare that to Friedlander’s take on Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne:

This is a singer with decent diction and good musical instincts but no command of vocal technique. He is massively over-adducting his vocal folds while driving enough air through them to get them to speak, but his throat is so tight that there is no flow or resonance. His rhythmic punctuation of the lyrics is very distracting, in contrast with [Bruce Dickinson] who delivered his text with rhythmic accents that served, rather than detracted from the flow of music and poetry . . . The entire range of his singing is contained within a single octave – with the exception of the moment when he yells “Oh Lord!” a little higher, in my opinion the only quasi-free vocal sound on the entire track [“War Pigs”].

(Note: the author of this post is a metal aficionado.)

Source: The Liberated Voice

Image by notsogoodphotography, licensed under Creative Commons.

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